Isa cupped the lilac bloom in her hand and took a deep breath. Nothing like the smell of lilacs in the spring. The sun beat down on her dark hair, so she ducked under a birch tree. Where was Nate? She peered through the sweeping branches of the birch for any sign of Nate. She’d told him to meet him behind the Presbyterian Church in their neighborhood. He knew exactly where she meant. She’d already shown him all her haunts.
Well, not all. This would be the first time she showed him The Clearing.
When Isa and Carolyn first stumbled upon the clearing in the woods almost five years ago, Isa felt as though they had traveled into another realm. She was sure that they’d meet wood nymphs, fairies, and perhaps, the occasional troll. They started their adventure innocently enough. They used to always traipsed around in the woods behind the Presbyterian Church in their neighborhood. One day they found an old graveyard and from then on they took it upon themselves to garnish the headstones with fresh flowers every mother and father’s day. They’d even place fresh flowers on the headstones marked for children. After-all, it wasn’t their fault they never made it to parenthood. Carolyn stopped going with Isa a couple of years ago, claiming it was childish. But Isa never missed a Mother or Father’s day.
On one particular beautiful Mother’s day, Isa and Carolyn had meandered much further than they intended looking for Virginia Bluebells when they both looked up and saw a field washed with pink, purple, and yellow poppies, sweet pea, and other magnificent wild flowers. They both stopped at the edge of the woods stunned into silence.
Beyond the field sat an old stone cottage overgrown with purple wisteria. And best of all was the sound of a brook babbling close by. Isa had skipped toward the house, and didn’t stop until she found the brook behind the house, hugging the edge of the woods.
It was a fairy-tale cottage. It was perfect.
Isa and Carolyn explored that magical place for hours, telling magnificent stories about the old house. Carolyn’s stories had ghosts in everyone. She insisted the house was haunted. While Isa’s stories always had a wood nymph. It wasn’t until later when they were forbidden to ever go back again. It belonged to the Roger’s family. And they’d been adamant that nobody ever trespass on their property.
That didn’t keep Isa from visiting the house now and again. She just stayed on the edge of the wood.
But today would be different. She’d have to risk the wrath of old man Rogers. He was in a nursing home anyway. What could he do?
She was determined that today was the day that she’d finally find her aunt’s long lost love. Or at least find out his name.
A couple nights ago, Isa tried again to ask her aunt about her old beau, but Aunt Hazel claimed to not know what she was talking about, but Isa knew that she was keeping something from her. She could see it in Aunt Hazel’s gray eyes.
Then again. It wouldn’t be half as much fun if Aunt Hazel just came out and told her.
“Daydreaming as usual?” Nate’s voice interrupted Isa’s thoughts.
“About time.” She stuck out her tongue at Nate.
She grabbed his wrist and pulled him toward the path that would take them to the clearing.
“What’s the hurry?” Nate stumbled on a branch.
“I need to be back in time for dinner. Aunt Hazel wants me to help her with making cookies for a bake sale.”
“Why don’t we just come back another day?”
Isa stopped and looked at Nate. “I can’t wait another day.”
Nate crinkled his brow. “Why is this so important to you Isa? Hazel has you. She doesn’t need an old boyfriend.”
Isa’s heart plunged. It wasn’t until now, looking into Nate’s blue eyes that she realized the real reason this was so important. It wasn’t because she liked a mystery. Well, that wasn’t the only reason.
It was because she needed to fix something that she’d messed up for her Aunt a long time ago.